Magical Islands of Si Phan DonWednesday, July 13, 2011
Our last destination in Laos was nothing short of magical.
Si Phan Don, loosely translated as the Four Thousand Islands was nothing like any group of islands we've ever set foot on. Imagine a beautiful group of islands set against a lazy and winding section of the Mekong River. Si Phan Don is being formed as the powerful river opens out to form an intricate pattern of sandbars, rocks and islets that spans 14 kilometers wide.
After being 'stranded' in a river village in Northern Laos, trekking in the hillside landscapes of Huay Bo, dipping in the beautiful waterfalls of Luang Prabang, indulging in the hedonistic pleasures of Vang Vieng and savoring the funky flavors all over Laos, we needed a respite from traveling. We chose Si Phan Don as a last destination simply for its sleepy innocence.
Our to do list: Chill, heat up, swim. Repeat. But the best laid plans often go astray, and so did we. We didn't know the islands had more things in store for us then we can ever imagine.
These are the magical experiences that await you once you visit this enchanting island:
The largest waterfall by volume in all of Southeast Asia can be found here, the Khone Phapen. You can say it's the Niagara Falls of Southeast Asia! Unfortunately, we didn't get to this one. We did make it to its sister, the Somphamit waterfall which is already pretty massive even during the dry season when we went. There are 2 other waterfalls to visit in the area. The Etoud and Rhon Pa Soi waterfalls.
|Photo Credit: Captain_Bob|
The best way to go around these islands is by bike. 2 of the 3 major islands, Don Khon and Don Det are connected by a scenic bridge and it's great to go exploring by yourself armed with a local map.
The bike rentals are dirt cheap. It would cost you about 8,000kip (around $2) per day. It's great exercise and a fun way to see the sights!
We made like Leo (you know who we mean!) and went to find our own secret beach on the island of Don Khon. We heard that there's a little cove that you can swim in just a few kilometers after the big waterfalls in the island. We walked for more than an hour under the blazing hot Laos sun, followed the signs (which led us to nowhere) and asked both locals and other backpackers.
Finally, our patience, sweat and a
Now, don't ask us to tell you where exactly it is located. You know what happens at the end of the movie, right? We'll give you a gun loaded with a single bullet and an ultimatum: shoot someone and be allowed to stay, or leave the island forever.
Tubing (For Real This Time)
|Photo Credit: Jonasphoto|
Been there, Don Det
There's nothing much to do in Don Det really and that's precisely why backpackers come and visit this little island. After all those buckets, slides and parties in Vang Vieng, we need some place to recuperate. Ah, backpackers lead such hard lives!
Most plan to stay only for a day or two but the pull of 'la dolce far niente' is too much to resist and some stay for a week or more. An English guy we met in Luang Prabang, Jon, even chose to stay for 4 months and take care of an organic farm while the owners went back to Europe.
As that guy with leaves on his head said: Veni, Vedi, Vici. The Sole Sisters saw, came and conquered the magical 4,000 islands of Laos.
Thinking of going?
If you're planning to experience the magic of Si Phan Don for yourselves, here's how:
If you're already in Laos, you can take a boat from Stung Treng. If you're coming from Cambodia, you can take a van from Kratie or Stung Treng which should include a boat ride to Don Det or Don Khong.
Been There, Don Det,
Sole Sister Lois and Chichi
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